Filomena

Today, June 25th, is an extraordinary woman’s 101st birthday.

Since her husband Manuel died a few years ago, Filomena has rallied her optimism and thrown a birthday reunion every June. The party is to celebrate her life, but it’s also to celebrate her family. Some of us are not lucky enough to boast the incredibly harmonious and large family she has nurtured. Just as she knits several pairs of socks each day, she has also woven bonds between her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Filomena

Her presence and wise words truly feel like gifts, but they are much more than that. As is with most wise people, she has weathered memories both beautiful and difficult. She has witnessed power shifts between Alfonso XIII, The Second Republic of Spain, The Spanish Civil War, Francisco Franco, and the Spanish transition to democracy. Her resilience and nine children carried her through each hardship, and helped her appreciate each joy. Today, she still enjoys fútbol, reading, knitting, and welcoming visitors.

This coming Saturday, a restaurant in Terrassa (a city about half an hour away from Barcelona) will be hosting a jubilant Filomena and her happy brood of 50 plus people. They will eat delicious food, and share better stories about this wonderful woman and the lives she made possible. Although my husband and I cannot join her celebration this year, we were there for her 100th birthday bash. It was a beautiful experience, and it gave me pause to reflect on old age and attitude. One of the most repeated conversations was, “how did she make it to the age of 100 years old?” And, what’s more, “with her mind and body very much intact?” Almost everyone had their own opinion but the person whose opinion I like best is Trinidad’s (my husband’s other grandmother): “By working very hard, being very passionate, and caring very much for those she loves.”

Although I am just a recent addition to her family, this post is my humble tribute to this inspiring woman.

Happy birthday Filomena.

Portland

A string of whimsy reunions.

The City of Roses has a special slice of my heart. It’s not because Portland is particularly beautiful, but because of the open-mindedness of its people. The city’s view of Mt. hood and surrounding waterways usually hide behind mist and relentless drizzle. While daydreaming of umbrellas and roaming the streets one can just slip into any of the coffee shops that brews a mean coffee or take shelter in the mecca of bookstores. PDX also happens to be the spot on the planet my sisters, niece, and nephew call home. In 2010, I spent a summer interning at an art gallery in the Pearl district. Almost immediately the city and its creative energy convinced me to move there. As it turns out,  fate had other plans. Although I have visited PDX several times since then, this time I went to see my sister graduate from OHSU’s School of Nursing and to hand-deliver a copy of Lost in the City of Flowers to Powell’s City of Books.

Looking Over

Lookout at The Departure

Portland was graciously blooming and sunny my entire trip. The weekend was a chain of small celebration wrapped up with lovely company. I squeezed in as much food, family, and friends as possible. No adventure to PDX is complete without a visit to Broder’s. It serves my absolute favorite breakfast. The cozy eatery offers Stumptown Coffee while you wait for your table and their round Swedish pancakes only rival their egg bakes.  After my sisters, friend (and talented designer) Garima Thakur, and I laughed and chatted over savory cheese and sweet caffeine we ventured off into the heart of the port city chasing other afternoon delights.

Pancakes at Broder's

Pancakes at Broder’s

After my sister walked across the stage to receive her diploma, family and friends spent the afternoon toasting with bubbly and appreciating Portland’s Skyline from the Nine’s Departure. Later that evening we ate at Le Pigeon;  a dinner both decadent and eccentric boasting entrées definitely out of our food zones.

Teresa

The Graduate

I spent some fleeting but no less special moments with my niece and nephew. We went on fair rides and ate cotton candy until our stomachs swirled and fingers stuck together. I shared their first Indian food experience thanks to Garima’s cooking skills. While they painted watercolor superheroes I stole kisses and hugs in between their brushstrokes. We ran with the grass between our toes until the kite we got from a kind homeless gentleman flew for a few victorious seconds. My niece and nephew are two incredible growing humans that I can never get enough of. Every time it gets harder to say good-bye.

Crafts with Audrey and Gavin

Painting with Gavin and Audrey

Before I left, I made a stop at Powell’s Books. Never did I think that I might have my book on one of its shelves. When I stepped through the entrance I was a tangle of nerves. Book in hand, I lingered by the info desk trying to hush my own irrational fear. While I repeated self-assuring mantras, my family waited in the background. After 15 minutes I worked up enough courage to ask to see a manager about submitting my book for their review. After handing it over, the dark negative Nancy character that dwells deep within us all grumbled her doubts about whether the book would ever see daylight but I am happy to report it might. Once I was back in Miami I got a sweet text from photographer Shaun Mendiola (responsible for the some of the killer pictures in this post) with this link to Powell’s website. Check it out for yourself.

Powell's

Steps at Powell’s

 

My Voice

Smitten

I scribble when I’m smitten.

This collection of writings will be sweet or sour, long or short, red or blue, depending on my mood and/or how much caffeine I have savored; but they will always be about things, moments, places, people, or ideas that bewitch me.

Coffee Drinking

Occasionally, of course, I’ll write about Viola and her art adventures, especially when it relates to events, news, and research field trips I intend to make whether to the library or to Europe. To be more specific, this corner of the interwebs will be a conversation about art, museums, eats, small shops, and people crushes. In other words, beautiful things and inspirational souls. 

“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes.” —Andre Gide

I will insist about it in future posts, but before I go, let me say that I will truly enjoy hearing from you, so don’t be shy.

Sky Jet

Why I Wrote It

To quench the muse.

Sometimes I still can’t believe I finished the book. When I think back to my writing journey, I usually decide that in many ways Lost in the City of Flowers wrote itself.

The few months after I finished grad school were a tangle of emotions. Even before, I felt something was a miss. I mistook this unsettling feeling as a spike in my awkward and nostalgic personality, but as it turns out, I was just chasing a wrong dream. The spark came with a faint idea on a sweaty afternoon. 

Dirt kicked up from rubber sneakers and cracked shovels swirled in the air. In a constant battle with the heat, children took mouthfuls of water and retreated into the shade. Several of the older kids pulled out books they were reading for reports. They mostly said that so others wouldn’t get the wrong idea. Most of these books involved some brand of witchcraft, vampires, or werewolves. “That’s kind of limiting,” I thought, and then, just like that, there was light. As an art history fiend, I sometimes wondered whether there was a way to get young audiences interested in art history.

Could I fit the study into an enthralling journey that is also educational? I know it’s a scary word for many, and an instant turn-off for the rest, but I don’t mean it in a preaching way. Trust me, I mean it in an interesting way. For most, art is intriguing, but it’s also confusing. At times, it even seems as if art historians and critics write stuff up with the sole purpose of confusing everyone except for the few familiar with its jargon (a charge that even I might be guilty of).

“History is a great adventure, and art is just one of the many paths that takes your hand and leads you through it.” —Mrs. Reed

The idea of inspiration as a muse is as old as the human race itself but she is a tricky dame. I was lucky enough to be graced by her presence and so we talked. What if there was a series of art adventures that sketched the history of art and made its progression more understandable? Objects of the past are brimming with all those things that make a fantastic story: war, love, death, struggle, triumph, and invention. Although this is a short list with no particular order, it is also a tiny testament to what can be discovered from those who walked before us. The muse wisely suggested I add a fictional story line as the rest would be history. The idea flourished and the muse would visit me often after that first day on the playground. I had a choice, I could do nothing with my gift, and leave it for someone else to find, or I could just do it. 

Wishes

I wrote the book with pencil and paper. Of course it was a struggle, but there were also beautiful mornings when I was just a vessel that words used to scribble themselves out. Lost in the City of Flowers is out in the world now, as are millions of other books. Yet, every single time one befriends the heroine, and join her on her expeditions through art’s past, it certainly feels like a victory to me, and the muse.